NASCAR America: Chase Elliott frustrated at the wrong people

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Chevrolet driver Chase Elliott was frustrated by the lack of help from Ford drivers in the closing laps of the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, but there wasn’t much more that the field could do under the current rules package according to NASCAR America analysts Parker Kligerman and Jeff Burton.

Elliott should have been frustrated by the NASCAR executives who created the current restrictor-plate superspeedway rules package.

“This is my problem with this package,” Kligerman explained. “I’ve had a gripe with this package since we’ve run it the last couple of years. Where it seems like to develop runs – to make the energy to make the run, at times with too few cars, it’s too tough.”

Burton agreed that the problem was that the field had been thinned by the multi-car accident that occurred on lap 167.

Chase Elliott said if he had one other guy go with him it would have made the difference; it wouldn’t have,” Burton said.

“You have to have two-wide, three-wide with this package to get those runs,” Burton continued. “It’s hard to just drag your brakes … As we roll forward and look at the end of the race, where Chase Elliott was so frustrated, there just weren’t enough cars.”

For more, watch the above video.

Joey Logano’s son gets first visit to Victory Lane

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Joey Logano‘s win Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway was big for the Team Penske driver both professionally and personally.

While it was his first Cup win in 36 races, it also marked his first chance to visit Victory Lane with son Hudson.

Logano celebrated his win in the GEICO 500 with wife Brittany and Hudson, who was born in January.

The successful birth of their first child came after the couple attempted vitro fertilization. Following their marriage in 2014, Brittany was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a common health problem caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones that can lead to infertility.

“It was amazing to pull into Victory Lane and celebrate with your guys,” Logano said. “When you turned around and saw Hudson and Brittany over there, I may have cried a little bit. … It’s a different feeling. Everyone always says, ‘You won’t understand until you have kids.’ I always kind of shook my head, ‘Okay.’ Now having a little guy, seeing him there, he may not remember, but for me, that was very special. For Brittany I hope it was, too. Something we’ll cherish forever.  We’ll have a great family picture in Victory Lane at Talladega.”

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Joey Logano guided to Talladega win by Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s former spotter

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The end of Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway was like past races at the 2.66-mile track in one aspect.

The final 42 laps featured a car being watched over by spotter TJ Majors fend off the field on the way to victory lane.

But the car wasn’t driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. It was the No. 22 Ford of Joey Logano that benefited from Majors’ eagle eye.

“Our spotter, TJ Majors, is a great addition to our race team as far as speedway racing,” Logano said. “He’s the best as they come.”

Majors joined Team Penske after Earnhardt’s retirement from Cup competition after last season. Majors spotted for Earnhardt during his entire tenure with Hendrick Motorsports from 2008-2017.

During that time, Earnhardt earned one win and five top fives at Talladega and two wins and six top fives in point races at Daytona.

“Thanks to Dale for retiring so I could get him,” Logano said. “When Junior retired, (Majors) gave me his word that he’d give me first look at it. We weren’t going to give him the option to go somewhere else.

“It was fun over the offseason to watch film together. For him to teach me things about the draft, kind of share his notebook with my notebook, teach each other what we’re thinking in certain scenarios, what we should do. Then to see all that come to play, you know, over Speedweeks, really obviously here today, to see all that is very exciting in what the future can bring.”

Logano finished fourth in the Daytona 500, his plate racing debut with Majors after several seasons with spotter Tab Boyd.

Crew chief Todd Gordon described the pair’s instant rapport as “flawless” and said Majors had helped Logano improve on superspeedways.

“I guess I would put the spotter and driver combination as a marriage,” Gordon said. “You can have two wonderful people, and you got to find the perfect fit. Tab did a phenomenal job for us. I think he continues to do a really good job for (William Byron, where he is now).

“But the opportunity at speedway races, I think TJ has done a phenomenal job with Dale Jr. in the past several years. He’s seen a lot. There’s a lot of communication that the spotter can see that we can’t. The driver can see the bumper of the car ahead of him. The crew chief can see what happens in the frontstretch. But the spotter sees everything. I think TJ has been a great asset.” 

Majors previously had spotted a Cup victory at Talladega on May 3, 2015 when Earnhardt scored the last of six wins at the track.

Earnhardt, now an analyst for NBC Sports, gave Majors a shoutout after the race.

Chase Elliott thought Ford drivers ‘would want to win a little more’

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As Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway neared its conclusion, Chase Elliot was baffled by the lack of aggression among those he was racing with behind winner Joey Logano.

Specifically, Elliott was at a loss trying to explain the actions of three other Ford drivers — Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — who finished with the Hendrick Motorsports driver’s No. 9 Chevrolet in the top five.

“I was really surprised with how patient they were being with one another,” Elliott said after taking third behind Busch and Logano. “Really thought they would want to win a little more than what they did, or at least showed to me.”

Elliott was one of three Chevy drivers in the top 10, but the only non-Ford driver in the top seven. He finished ahead of Kevin Harvick, defending race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Aric Almirola and David Ragan.

“Those guys around me were working together so much,” Elliott said. “If it was me, I feel like I would have wanted to try or do something. Those guys weren’t having it. I was trying to move forward and make a lane and push, and they were not interested in advancing.”

Though Busch passed Harvick for second on Lap 187 of 188, but there were no other dramatic moves made to try to dethrone Logano.

Asked about Elliott’s comments that he was deliberately patient, Busch said, “Well, I mean, the guy that’s leading the race is pretty fast.  The guy that’s second is really fast.  The guy that’s third is fast.  When you time together three guys that are from the same manufacturer (Ford), that’s what puts you in position to win.

“But then once it’s five (laps) to go, nobody’s really caring who’s got what brand underneath the hood, the shape of their car.  It’s my job as a teammate to help Kevin a little bit further down into getting two to go, one to go.  Then there’s Stenhouse, who has won a lot of these plate races recently.  He came in there with a head of steam.  I wanted to roll with him.  Didn’t materialize. That’s how we got all strung out, trying to be the one guy by himself, where you need three to kind of hook up and go and try to pass the leader.

Elliott improved a spot to third after Harvick got shuffled to fourth on the pass by Busch, his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate.

“I tried to kind of break out of line and do a couple things there,” Elliott said. “Like I said, it was very obvious that nobody was going to help around me.  It’s hard to move forward.  Even if I just had one other person to help, I felt like it would have made a big difference.”

The result was Elliott’s second consecutive top-three finish after a second at Richmond. It’s also his best finish in 10 restrictor-plate starts and his second top five at Talladega.

The closest Hendrick Chevy for Elliott to work with belonged to Alex Bowman (eighth). Jimmie Johnson placed 12th after being part of a wreck with 23 laps to go that eliminated William Byron.

“It was a pretty wild afternoon,” Elliott said.  “Cars were hard to drive. Scared some people off from running three‑wide and four‑wide. That was interesting, as well. So could have been worse.”

What drivers said after Talladega Cup race

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Joey Logano – Winner: “I guess we got luck. I have a great spotter. Dale Jr. left me a good one with TJ Majors, who allowed me to make the right decisions. He gives me the picture behind me and tells me where to go. I just hold the steering wheel and make the right moves. It was a great car, very fast. The Fords dominated today. I am so proud to be in a Blue Oval with Roush Yates motors under the hood. That is a huge deal. A big part of our victory today. Teamwork was a big part of it as well. At the end you are racing and don’t know what will happen, you just hope to get in the right lanes at the right time with the right moves. It is always exciting to win at a superspeedway, especially Talladega because you never know you’ve got it until you cross the line. After waiting a full year since our last win, it feels so good to get back in victory lane and get into the playoffs. It feels really good to get those playoff points, and now we will make a run at a championship.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 2nd: “We just needed the assistance from behind. (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) was strong. All the Fords were great today. I was hoping he would get to us on the back straightaway so we could go on offense on the front to go win it but it just didn’t materialize. I wanted to stay with Harvick, my teammate, and navigate around (Logano), but everyone behind kind of broke off and was racing too hard and nobody got that big head of steam to try to push through and break apart (Logano)’s lead.”

Chase Elliott – Finished 3rd: “I thought our NAPA Chevy was good. It wasn’t as fast as we’ve been previously at the restrictor-plate tracks, but I feel like it was a solid car. I got to the end, and those guys around me were working together so much. I thought for sure one of them wanted to win a little worse than what they did. They were being very patient with one another, and I was surprised by that. If it was me, I feel like I would have wanted to try or do something. Those guys weren’t having it. I was trying to move forward and make a lane and push, and they were not interested in advancing. So, it could have been a lot worse, so we’ll move on to Dover.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 4th: “We had a really good Bush Ford. We got the handling a lot better there after the first run of the race when it was pushing really bad and loose in the corners and through the trioval. They did a good job adjusting the car. (Kurt Busch) pulled out sooner than I thought he would there, and we wound up getting hung out. All in all, it was a really good day. I am happy to finish the race. It is a good day for the guys. We can tweak on one finally rather than having to rebuild one.”

Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. – Finished 5th: “I just wasn’t sure what to do there. I knew (Chase Elliott) was going to try to get by us, and we are all trying to get a win there. (Joey Logano) was in a great position. When we got two-wide behind him, it didn’t slow him down much. We weren’t ever really gaining on him. It was a lot of fun out there today. I made a few mistakes on pit road, and we caught some good cautions to keep us on the lead lap. I thought the racing was good. The cars were super tough to drive. They were sliding around everywhere, which was fun. I think that made for a good race throughout the runs and the stages and the different strategies that we had. All in all it was a fun weekend, and I had fun on the boulevard with all the fans. I appreciate all of them coming out. I really wanted to win on Dale Sr.’s birthday. That would have been really cool.”

David Ragan – Finished 6th: “We had a fast car all weekend. We qualified 12th, and if it wasn’t for my speeding penalty early, I think we could have run in the top 15 all day. Kudos to the Front Row Motorsports guys for assembling this car and the team at the shop and the engine shop and even Roush Fenway Racing, who put a lot of effort in. Special thanks to Jimmy Fennig for helping us on this car.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 7th: “It was an unusual Talladega. The cars are a big handful. They keep getting them lower and lower and lower, and we are going faster and faster and faster, but the cars just drive worse. It is a lot harder to run in a big pack three- and four-wide all day long. You definitely saw it kind of file out and pit strategy and a lot of that stuff. The one thing that I do know is that the Fords were all really fast. All of us were really fast. We had a great Smithfield Ford Fusion the whole weekend. We put ourselves behind in qualifying, but that was a nice way to battle back with a solid day for us. I thought we had a car capable of getting up there and racing for the win, but we got shuffled there on the restarts. Coming from the back to get a top 10 is a good day.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 8th: “The cars are just pretty unstable, so the racing is just different. Nobody is going to want to race quite as hard because their stuff is not driving as good to be able to do it. I feel like people were pretty limited on how their stuff drove, but our stuff drove better than most. We were really fast until we got that hole in the nose, and that just killed us. Miscommunication on that, but we will learn from it and move on.”

Ryan Newman – Finished 9th: “I’m just happy to have been in front of the ‘Big One’ for a change. The start of our weekend saw us caught up in a practice wreck. It is what it is at a place like this. So many things happen here that are out of our control, but we kept our primary engine and raced the backup. Stage 1 did not go as planned for us, but we managed to get back out front by Stage 2 to run in the top 10. My plan was to go when we could but be smart about it, and fortunately for us, we had luck on our side. We’ve been running well but haven’t had much to show for it as of late, so I’m happy that this Cat Racing team can leave here with a ninth-place finish.”

Daniel Suarez – Finished 10th: “It was OK. Made a lot of mistakes through the day. We went out there to survive and tried to get a decent finish, and that’s what we got. We have to keep working to get these race cars a little bit better. There were a lot of people who were having issues handling-wise; we were one of them as well. We don’t have a lot of luck at superspeedway racing, but there’s definitely work to be done.”

Chris Buescher – Finished 11th: “Yeah, that was good for our Kroger Clicklist JTG Daugherty team. We needed to come here and have a good showing. We ran good at Daytona this year and trying to stick to a strategy that keeps us out of trouble. It’s still hit or miss. AJ (Allmendinger) was on the same deal and got caught up in that one there. It’s a little bit of luck involved with just being out of that stuff. Definitely, a more white-knuckled race than usual here. Very on edge. Tires gave out a lot and really slowed our pace down or hurt the handling. So, it was a more fun race than normal out here. I will say that. I am not the best advocate for plate racing, but I can enjoy it from time to time. I’m glad we were able to bring our Degree Camaro ZL1 home in one piece with very limited damage, and we got an 11th-place finish out of it.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 12th: “I knew I had help somehow just the way it turned around. Unfortunately, when I was sliding, (Ryan Blaney) hit us and bent something in the rear end. It wasn’t the same after. (Looking at the car), there really isn’t much damage, and he hit me pretty hard on the other wheel and it was just super draggy and slow that last restart. Something is bent in the rear end and very loose.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 13th: “Once we got in that wreck, it was over, but we had a decent car up until then. We got the car handling better all day long and every adjustment we made to it was an improvement and gave us more on the racetrack, but we just lack speedway speed.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 15th: “Geico 500 weekend was not an easy one for us. Our primary car was incredibly fast in practice, but we were forced pull out our backup car after I got caught up in the big wreck on Friday. We were confident in this backup car though because it has run well at superspeedways in the past. We knew that we wanted to run a conservative race at the beginning after we got too aggressive in Daytona and were taken out before the end of Stage 1. Our plan to survive worked, but we were bit by a tire issue early on and had to come back from a lap down. It is not how we wanted to race, but we battled back to the lead lap and a top-15 finish. A solid finish is exactly what we needed. I know it was a tough weekend for our Geico Camaro ZL1 team, and I appreciate all of their hard work to keep us in this thing.”

William Byron – Finished 29th: “Honestly, I think we just got side-drafted going into (turn) 3 and got me a little bit free and then I think I just packed some air on his (Jimmie Johnson) left rear. I haven’t seen a replay, so I can’t really tell. Hopefully, one of our guys can get it done. It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t get to the end of the race, but we’ll learn from it and come back here in the fall and hopefully have an even better run.”

Paul Menard – Finished 30th: “We just got the bottom lane rolling decent and kind of got shuffled back. It is so hard to get back forward. We went for the top, and that wasn’t working, so we went to the bottom and started going forward, but (Jimmie Johnson) just cut across (William Byron) from what I saw and caused a big wreck.”

Clint Bowyer – Finished 31st: “It looked like, I don’t know if he got loose or was trying to get in a whole, but (Jimmie Johnson) wasn’t clear and wrecked a bunch of us. That was just kind of par for our day. It started when we locked the right-rear wheel up somehow coming to the pits and flat spotted that and had to come back in. We finally got two laps back. I got one lap back and then finally got on the lead lap and then we wrecked. Par for the course.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 32nd: “All I saw was smoke unfortunately. We were just in the wrong lane at the wrong time. We had a really fast Love’s Travel Stops Ford. Unfortunately, that happens here at Talladega, and it always feels like it is 20 to go when we crash. I am not sure how to get to the end of these ones. It has been a rough last few years.”

Brad Keselowski – Finished 33rd: “There was just a wreck in front of me, and I couldn’t make any sense really of what happened, and we just got into it.”

AJ Allmendinger – Finished 34th: “Yeah I’m not sure what happened. I just saw (Jimmie Johnson) spin, and all heck broke loose after that. I actually got it checked up, got it to the apron. There was so much smoke and grass flying. I had it slowed down. I wasn’t going to drive into the wreck and just got clobbered from the right side. I don’t know. I felt like I did everything I was supposed to do and still got wrecked.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 35th: “I just saw them wrecking in front of me and I got it slowed down. I went to cut through the grass because everybody was kind of wrecking that way, and when I hit the grass, it just tore the oil cooler off of it. It sucks because we really wouldn’t have had any damage if I had kind of rolled through the grass. It’s part of this racing and hate it. We were on the good side of it at Daytona, bad side here we will just go back to Daytona and see what we can do there.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished 38th: “We went into Turn 1, and I saw Kyle Busch kind of get rooted up high. The third lane seemed to be the best for us. The car was on the splitter, and the higher I could stay the better off we were. I went to the top to keep my run going and coming off the corner, I didn’t see what happened but watching the replay it looks like (Erik Jones) got turned and turned up into us. It stinks. You try to manage your highs and lows, though. We will move on and go to Dover next weekend. It is frustrating because Talladega is one of the ones you know you can win at, and we wanted to do that today.”

Erik Jones – Finished 39th: “We’ve been fighting a loose car all day and unfortunately just got down on the apron there and kind of fighting it being free and then it took off up the hill after that. I was out of the throttle with it cranked left, and there’s only so much you can do. Unfortunately, it ruined our day and took out a few others along the way, so it’s really unfortunate for them and for us. It’s not what you want to have happen. We’ll move on and go to Dover next weekend and hopefully have a better weekend.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 40th: “Yeah, I mean I haven’t really seen what happened. I saw Jamie (McMurray) get loose and then I saw (Erik Jones) get into the wall and then Jamie came back down, and I ran into him. Just nothing I could really do, and then there wasn’t much we were trying to repair there. We were just waiting on pit road to close so we could back up and get back to the garage area and out of the way of everybody on pit road. I hate that we are going to get a DNF (Did Not Finish) here. I feel like our Credit One Bank Chevy drove a little bit better than it did at Daytona, so would have liked to have gotten to race. I didn’t really ever feel like we got to race. We were just single file, and it was kind of boring. I was ready to start racing, get two and three wide. It would have been fun but ended up getting in a crash.”